, Volume 381, Issue 4, pp 854-862

Simultaneous speciation of mercury and butyltin compounds in natural waters and snow by propylation and species-specific isotope dilution mass spectrometry analysis

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A robust method has been developed for simultaneous determination of mercury and butyltin compounds in aqueous samples. This method is capable of providing accurate results for analyte concentrations in the picogram per liter to nanogram per liter range. The simultaneous determination of the mercury and tin compounds is achieved by species-specific isotope dilution, derivatization, and gas chromatography–inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometer (GC–ICP–MS). In derivatization by ethylation and propylation, reaction conditions such as pH and the effect of chloride were carefully studied. Ethylation was found to be more sensitive to matrix effects, especially for mercury compounds. Propylation was thus the preferred derivatization method for simultaneous determination of organomercury and organotin compounds in environmental samples. The analytical method is highly accurate and precise, with RSD values of 1 and 3% for analyte concentrations in the picogram per liter to nanogram per liter range. By use of cleaning procedures and SIDMS blank measurements, detection limits in the range 10–60 pg L−1 were achieved; these are suitable for determination of background levels of these contaminants in environmental samples. This was demonstrated by using the method for analysis of real snow and seawater samples. This work illustrates the great advantage of species-specific isotope dilution for the validation of an analytical speciation method—the possibility of overcoming species transformations and non-quantitative recovery. Analysis time is saved by use of the simultaneous method, because of the use of a single sample-preparation procedure and one analysis.